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David Seidler, Oscar-winning writer of “The King’s Speech”, dies at 86

The British screenwriter earned several accolades for the 2010 film, including two BAFTA's and an Academy Award.

David Seidler, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind 2010’s The King’s Speech, died Saturday while on a fly-fishing expedition in New Zealand. He was 86.

“David was in the place he loved most in the world — New Zealand — doing what gave him the greatest peace which was fly-fishing,” his longtime manager Jeff Aghassi told EW in a statement. “If given the chance, it is exactly as he would have scripted it.”

Born in London on Aug. 3, 1937, Seidler spent his early childhood years in the English city before his family relocated to New York amidst World War II. During the voyage, he developed a stutter and wouldn’t have a speech therapy breakthrough until he was 16. This partially inspired him to write The King’s Speech, which won him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The film tells the true story of King George VI’s (Colin Firth) struggle to overcome his severe stutter with the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). The film picks up as George’s brother abdicates the throne, leaving George as the head of the British monarchy in 1937. The monarch goes on to forge a lasting friendship with Logue, as he prepares for his first wartime radio message after the start of World War II.

<p>Michael Buckner/Getty</p> David Seidler

Michael Buckner/Getty

David Seidler

Ahead of the 2011 ceremony, Seidler was hesitant to discuss the film’s chances at the Academy Awards but told KPBS, "I have to be honest. Way down in the recesses of my soul, I thought this is the little film that could. I think this may really be able to get out there. I had this silent hope that I never expressed because it seemed so ridiculous and so far-fetched."

The film received 12 Oscar nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture. Firth took home a trophy for his performance as King George, and Tom Hooper won for Best Director. The King’s Speech earned many more accolades, including seven BAFTAs.

Seidler later penned a stage adaptation of the film, which opened in London on the West End in 2012. The script has since been translated into more than half a dozen languages and performed across four continents. Plans for the play to head to Broadway fell through in 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seidler wrote multiple TV and movie scripts over the years — many of which he co-penned with his former writing partner, Jacqueline Feather. Their credits include Dancing in the Dark, Come on, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story, and By Dawn’s Early Light. They also worked on several animated children’s musicals, such as The King and I, Quest for Camelot, and Madeline: Lost in Paris. Throughout his career, Seidler wrote episodes for series like Days of Our Lives, Another World, General Hospital, and Son of the Dragon. With Arnold Schulman, he cowrote Francis Ford Coppola’s 1988 comedy drama Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

Seidler is survived by his children, Marc and Maya.

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